Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers
Developed By: SYUPRO
Published By: NIS America
Release Date: 10.22.19
I remember playing a lot of RPGs when I was a kid; but I don’t remember a lot of them being very kid-friendly. In fact, if my parents knew what I was experiencing in games like Xenogears and Final Fantasy VII, I may not have been playing many RPGs at all. That’s mostly because my parents just sort of assumed things were fine because, like the comics I was reading, video games fell under the umbrella of “kid stuff that we don’t need to pay attention to.” Sure, some politicians on TV were doing their whole fear-mongering BS about violent games and whatever, but luckily my parents generally saw that for what it was and left my passion for gaming alone.
Parents today, for good or ill, are a little bit better-informed and more involved than my parents were in the media their children consume. I see it all the time during my day job at a comic store; superhero comics at which my parents would not have batted an eye are scrutinized very heavily by the majority of parents who come in with their kids, and according to several friends who work in game stores, the same is generally true of video games. Speaking very generally, RPGs have tackled a lot more nuanced and thoughtful subject matter – not “kid stuff” in the traditional sense. So what do you do to introduce a younger player who may be interested to the genre?
Certainly there are always the Pokemon games or some mobile BS that doesn’t always live up to the lofty narrative heights of which the genre is capable, but what if you’re a conscientious parent looking to spread your love of RPGs to your kids without exposing them to the more risqué elements of a lot of JRPGs (Google Kyoko Kuremi from the Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth series if you don’t know what I’m talking about)? Well, you really hope and pray that a game like Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travelers for the Nintendo Switch comes along. It’s an imperfect but charmingly addictive kid-friendly JRPG with shades of Chrono Trigger and maybe even a little bit of Earthbound thrown in for good measure – but no mostly-naked private detectives.
Revolt of the Household Appliances
Destiny Connect: Tick Tock Travelers is the story of Sherry, a young girl looking forward to seeing her father for the first time in a long time on New Year’s Day. When he doesn’t show, Sherry’s mom takes the girl to see the fireworks display at the local mall in their town of Clocknee. During the show, time stops for everyone except Sherry, her mother, and Sherry’s friend Pegreo. After running from monsters that look like TVs, Sherry makes it back to her home and discovers a secret basement in her father’s study. It is there that she finds Isaac, a robot that looks like if Robo from Chrono Trigger had a kid with a pocket watch and a washing machine. After meeting one of her father’s colleague’s, Doctor Cheatstein, it is revealed that Isaac is a time machine, and Sherry is sent back in time to discover the mystery of the malevolent machines’ machinations. Sherry is nine, by the way. Great job, grown-ups in Clocknee. Real solid adulting there.
Questionable choices of Clocknee’s adult population aside, Destiny Connect’s story is a solidly fun and engaging experience. Sherry, Isaac, and the cast of characters that grow around them are bursting with heart and personality that will endear them to players of all ages. Their journey through time is full of drama and comedy in equal measure, conveyed via sharply-written dialogue that manages to build the game’s characters and world without any wasted words or overwritten exchanges. Destiny Connect has a few flaws, but none of them are in the story.
Fight the Future with the Future
The bulk of the gameplay in Destiny Connect is pretty typical JRPG game design. You can explore the world around you, talking to NPCs and finding items on the ground or in chests along the way. Some areas have enemy icons patrolling them, and coming into contact with an enemy initiates combat. Approaching an enemy from behind will give you the initiative, allowing you to act first, but the reverse is true if an enemy manages to tag you from behind. Combat itself is a pretty standard turn-based JRPG setup; your characters and foes take turns according to the order displayed along the side of the screen. You can attack, use special skills, use items, defend, or try to escape (Isaac has one more ability, but we’ll get to him).
There are lots of other fairly standard JRPG features present as well, such as the ability to buy and equip new armor, weapons, and accessories to power up your characters in addition to leveling up. Characters sometimes learn new abilities when they level up, and these abilities can be upgraded with special items acquired via defeating enemies. HP works like HP always does, but skill points (SP) work a little differently. You recover SP every turn, and your abilities are broken up into tiers. First-tier abilities take one bar, second-tier abilities take two, and third-tier abilities take all three of your SP bars to use.
So, as you can see, there aren’t a whole lot of new ideas floating around gameplay-wise. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun or engaging; the difficulty is well-balanced to feel challenging without being frustrating. Probably the most frustrating part for me was the tutorial system, which can be turned off if you don’t want to see them, so how inconvenient is it really? The game is clearly geared for younger players to be able to enjoy as well, so the very basic tutorials may be incredibly useful for players who haven’t played many JRPGs before. I don’t need to be told how to attack in a turn-based JRPG; I’ve played a hundred of them. But while it may have been an inconvenience for me, I actually did appreciate that Destiny Connect went so far as to make itself accessible for players new to the genre.
Intelligent Spacetime Acceleration Array Circumventor
The game’s biggest special system is Isaac, Sherry’s time machine/bodyguard. He has two special mechanics that apply only to him. First, he has his gear equipment system. At special locations throughout the game, you can transform gear parts gained by defeating enemies into gears. Installing gears in Isaac has various benefits like raising his stats by levels varying according to the quality of the gears or unlocking new abilities. You will also find special gears as the story advances which unlock new forms for Isaac, each with their own unique gear setup and set of abilities. Once a form is unlocked, Isaac can transform into his new role during battle with the “transform” command, which is unique to him. Isaac’s ability to transform brings another level of complexity to the strategic element of the combat system if you choose to take advantage of it, and you also get to see Isaac turn into a fire truck and a cowboy, among other things.
Far and away the most disappointing aspect of Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travellers is the disconnect between the quality of the game’s visual design and the quality of the game’s actual graphics. Sherry, Isaac, Pegreo and the gang have vibrant, cartoony designs that would be perfectly at home in a Pixar or Dreamworks film. The world and Sherry’s foes follow suit, completing a wonderful sense of visual design that the game’s graphics just don’t support. The game frequently looks fuzzy and pixelated whether you’re playing docked or undocked, which was a continual disappointment. I suppose it looked a little better docked, but honestly the difference was pretty negligible. Subpar graphics are bad enough on their own, but it’s even more disheartening when the graphics are underselling such a fantastic design sense.
The audio design is as energetic and lively as the character designs. I sometimes find music that’s too upbeat and cheery can get on my nerves after a while, but I never had that problem here. The music conveyed the feeling of whistling just because you’re having a good day, and its sunniness made itself welcome at every turn. I didn’t mind the lack of voiceover, either, but if you really prefer games with voice acting know that you won’t find any here.
Destined to Connect with JRPG Fans
Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travellers can’t really be said to be perfect. Its game system is fairly standard for the JRPG genre and the graphics don’t live up to even average current gen standards. However, a lack of innovation in the gameplay system does not mean that the game is not polished to a shine and well-balanced, which it is. And while the graphics are not up to par, the design elements underneath those graphics are solid and delightful enough to still come away with an above-average level of presentation. Most importantly for an RPG (for me, anyway) the story and characters are engaging and sharply crafted. Sure, there are some rough edges, but any fan on the JRPG genre will find plenty to like about this game, and it is a perfect introduction to the genre for new or younger players.
Buy Destiny Connect: Tick-Tock Travellers
$39.99 Digital/$49.99 Physical
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*A game code was provided for review purposes.